Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Seattle Vacation-Day 4

Itinerary: Whale watching tour

We woke up early to catch our boat for a whale watching your this morning. The boat was leaving at 7:45 and we had to be there an hour ahead of time to pick up our boarding passes.  What struck me about the whole process and operation is that ferries and other boats are just an everyday mode of transportation when you live so close to the ocean, bays, sounds and other large bodies of water.  Checking-in at the ticket counter and boarding was not unlike the process you'd go through at an airport, except there was no TSA screening. There was a couple with bikes loaded up with camping gear, so it was clear the were touring Seattle and surrounding area via bike.  That looked and sounded like fun.  Maybe on another trip. 

We traveled 3 hours by ferry to Friday harbor on San Jaun Island.  The crew informed the passengers that there had been no whale sightings that morning, so we would embark for our whaling tour in the afternoon. We went ashore at Friday harbor and toured the small island city for about 2 hours. We walked the main city streets and checked out the city shops on the strip. 

Pattykate on the dock and Friday harbor. 

We loaded the ferry again after our excersion on San Jaun Island (many of the islands in the area have Spanish names after the first settlers) and headed out for some whale watching.  After traveling for about 15' we found a pod of 4 orcas, two adults, 1 younger adult, and 1 young calf.  It was amazing to see these magnificent animals. They would surface to breathe and would take a few breaths before submerging again for several minutes. The calf would come out of the water the most out of all the whales so on several occasions we could see nearly his whole body, from the tip of his nose to his tail. The older whales only surfaced enough to breathe, so we'd only see their spouts, backs and tails.  Upon reflection, I concluded that I would much prefer observe whales like this in nature than in captivity performing tricks for audiences.  I have scruples with Sea World. For two hours we followed this small pod of whales. Patrick and I stayed up on the top open deck and watched then with binoculars for nearly the entire time.  One unexpected site was a whale feeding.  The naturalist on board, who would point out whales, birds, and other interesting sites in the surrounding nature, at one point in the whale watching called our attention to some thrashing in the water off on the port side of the ferry.  We'd see water splashing about and then a seal tail would pop up. This continued for a good 5 minutes.  The naturalist explained the whales were hunting the seal and the reason it lasted so long was because it was very likely a training exercise for the calf.  The circle of life, while completely natural, was difficult to watch in person and so close up.  Especially after seeing the cute harbor seals at the aquarium a few days earlier. 



Above two pictures show whales in the pod we followed. 

A great veiw of the mountains on our ferry ride

PW on the Clipper ferry

The rear of the Cipper ferry going about 30 knots (35 mph )

We also so other seals (live and not being hunted), bald eagles, other coastal birds and a two Norse whales on our tour. The landscape was breathtaking.  Overall the tour was great but the down side was that it was ALL day.  We woke up at 5:15 and didn't get back to the hotel until after 8 pm.  And the travel, while very new to us and interesting, was very long.  We spent a little over 6.5 hours traveling to and from Friday harbor, so this was a lot of sitting and we were very tired of the ride near the end.  But it was overall very worth it to see whales and other marine wildlife in their natural habitat.  

Luckily on both legs of the journey we met some interesting people to chat with and pass the time.  On the return trip we sat with two local ladies who talked with us about the joys if living in Seattle, the culture and the people here. We comminted to them that we noticed when we drove to Camano Island tgAt the drivers here are all very laid back and extremely courteous.  She concurred that this is a good discripition of Seattlites in general and that these characteristics extended beyond driving style. She told us that the people here are very know and courteous in general and that they can be passive aggressive, sometimes to a fault.  We joked about how Texans can be loud and boisterous and often expressing their sentiments with disregard for the effect their words might have.  We pointed out that this is all made possible by the phrase "bless their heart", which when said before any off-color or unflattering remark acts as a socialy acceptable buffer to whatever comes next. 

After parting ways with our new friends, who turned out to have similar personalities and senses of humor as us, we set out to find some dinner.  We settled on a little Thai place a few blocks from our hotel.  I ordered Sin Yai at spice level 2 and Patrick ordered is classic Panang Curry at spice level "extremely hot".  I had never tried or even seen my dish at other Thai restaurants, but I was drawn to this dish because it had a variety of veggies, as well as curry and peanuts. All of which made for a FANTASTIC combination. By far, this is my new favorite Thai dish.  I just hope I can find it at Thai restaurants in Dallas.  If not , I'll just have to go back to Seattle.  Unfortunately, when Patrick asked for his curry "extremely hot", which normally is just fine for him, his dish came out spicier than expected.  Our first indication was when we tasted my dish.  While still a comfortable level of heat, this Thai restaurant's 2 was spicer than our pallets were calibrated to.  Knowing that my 2 felt more like a 3, we guessed Patrick was in for a ride.  The Thai heat scale can be specific to individual restaurants.  At our favorite Dallas Thai spot (Thai Star) Patrick orders his dish at spice level "Thai kill me", which is still not hot enough for him and he still has to use their pepper spice rack to up the heat level to enjoy his dish.  But here at this Seattle Thai restaurant, he went for the hottest spice level and for the first time in years, got in over his head in terms of spice level.  We ordered a creamy drink to tame the heat a bit, but he was still not able to enjoy his dish as much as he would have liked. Lesson learned.  When we go back (note when not if), Patrick will be a little less ambitious in terms of spice.